Video: The right to vote might be too expensive for former felons in Florida under new bill

By Kaisha Young

ORLANDO, FL — On April 24, the Florida House passed a bill that would require former felons to pay all restitution debt as well as court fees and fines before they can register to vote. 

The bill is a threat to Amendment 4 — the landmark ballot initiative Florida passed last November that restored voting rights for approximately 1.5 million people convicted of felonies who had not committed crimes like rape or murder. 

In March, some Republican lawmakers began working to add clarifications to the amendment’s implementation. The main point of contention regarding the amendment’s language is what it means for someone to have completed their sentence. Some lawmakers argued that someone has not “completed” their sentence until they have paid restitution, court fees and fines. 

The Florida Senate has proposed a companion bill that would not require payment of court fees and fines if they have been converted to a civil lien; however, it would still require restitution payment. 

The Florida legislative session ends on May 3. 

The House version of the bill was referred to Florida’s Rules Committee and the Senate version was scheduled for a Special Order hearing. If the two chambers cannot reconcile, they can either propose new drafts of the bill for consideration or let the bill will die without reaching consensus. 

Featured photo: Gregory Mack, a returning citizen, could see his voting rights impacted by an amendment proposed in Florida. Photo by Kaisha Young